What it Really Takes to be a Trainer
by Aidan Nafzger

Nowadays it seems as though everybody wants to be a personal trainer. What are my thoughts on that? More power to them! The fitness movement is taking off and there is definitely a demand for high quality information and strategies to improve athletic ability, physical appearance, and overall good health. If you think you've got what it takes, then by all means, step up to the plate! So, what will it take to bring the training industry to the level of credibility it needs to be at to earn the respect of our colleagues in the fields of science and medicine? We must up the anti on the criteria we expect from a stellar training/nutrition expert and so far the current organizations providing certifications are simply not cutting it. I will say in fairness that some are better than others. A CSCS certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association does lend more credibility than an ACE personal trainer certification no doubt. At least they cover some form of practical application skills during the testing procedure.

My problem is this. I know plenty of eggheads with a degree who were able to wing their way through just about any of the current certification procedures who don't possess the least remnant of a clue about actually training people. Some of them have never picked up a damn weight in their life (at least not with proper technique). These newbies are easily identified. You will see them using a Swiss ball on nearly every exercise their clients do and saying things like, "if you really want ripped abs, you must perform at least 50 reps each set and feel the burn". We send these poor eggheads out into our little universe of trainers and strength coaches possessing a very false sense of confidence about their ability to produce top notch training clients. Suddenly a book is very different than the real world... hmmm, imagine that.

So what do we do to remedy our current state of affairs in the industry? For starters, I think we need to define a minimum amount of practical experience one should possess before they begin commanding the high price tags that some of these newbies are demanding. Screening the experience of these trainers would likely be a difficult task, but perhaps if they incorporated hands-on experience as an intern with a truly qualified trainer as part of the certification process, the world would be a better place to live in... uhhh, or at least train in.

Secondly, I see many people being attracted to the potential income a good trainer or strength coach is able to command. If your in it solely for the money, do us all a favor and perhaps consider a more viable career choice. If you are not truly passionate about being the best at something, you will never be the best. However, if you have the aptitude and passion for your work, the money will come in time.

And lastly, I think we should set a defined body-fat limit for trainers. How in the hell can you be 27% body-fat and go around telling people how to be in shape or perform optimally as an athlete? I think some of you (you know who you are) need to figure out how to get yourself in shape before you can be deemed as qualified to tell others what it takes to get the most out of their bodies. Is this a harsh statement? Maybe slightly but not nearly as harsh as taking peoples' money and leaving them with nothing but an empty sack of false expectations. Learn to lead by example for God's sake.

So what are the most important criteria to assess when seeking a trainer or strength coach for your own needs? Well, first and foremost I'd say that their track record should hold more weight than just about any other factor. If the majority of their clients that have been training with them for more than a year are still fat and unhealthy looking then it is probably pretty safe to say that their other credentials are about as worthless as the twenty bucks Bill Gates found on the ground while strolling out of his office the other day.

Also, consider the individual's forte. Some top notch coaches and trainers are multi-talented, but 9 times out of 10 a distance runner isn't going to be the ideal choice for learning how to maximize your powerlifting competition totals and vice-versa. Pick a trainer that excels at what you hope to achieve in your own training. Theoretical knowledge means nothing without the experience to back it up.

Training certifications and degrees are all fine and great, but please for your own good, use them as a stepping stone to the knowledge one should hope to amass through hard work, careful observation, and good ol' hands-on experience. How do you think learning institutions were developed in the first place? They were initiated by the great thinkers and observationists throughout time. I assure you Thomas Edison had no degree in electrical engineering, Henry Ford was never "taught" how to build the first car in history from scratch, and Alexander Graham Bell did not have a Masters Degree in telecommunications. Just remember where all this information came from in the first place before you go getting to high on your horse about your degree or certification. Talent, aptitude, passion, and hard work are qualities that cannot be bought.